December 19, 2015, by Graham Kendall
Wisdom of the Crowds at the Graduate School Christmas Party
In 1906 Francis Galton was at a country fair and there was a guess the ox competition. He took all 787 guesses and took the average. This was 1,197 pounds. The actual weight? 1.198 pounds! In effect the wisdom of the crowds gave a perfect answer. This was the start of The Wisdom of the Crowds.
Our Graduate School held its Christmas Party yesterday (18th Dec 2015) and they were kind enough to invite me. When I got there, I noticed that there was a jar of sweets, inviting people to guess how many sweets were in the jar. This reminded me of the story above.
When the competition ended, the person who had the closest guess would win the jar of sweets.
The jar held 149 sweets. The closest guess (by Oppong Kyekyeku) was 130; nineteen away – but good enough to win the prize.
When we looked at all the entries (see below), we found we had 22 entries, with an average of 152 (actually 152.409). That is just three away.
To be honest, with such a small sample size, I was surprised that the wisdom of the crowds (well small gathering) had beaten every other guess and had got within four of the right answer.
Francis Bacon would have been proud!